Harborside abode like a retreat


House: A former county dweller enjoys the view through her window on life by the water.

July 10, 2005|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For Leslie Berman, city living is like being on vacation every day. Three years ago, Berman, a widow, sold her home in northern Baltimore County. With a few pieces in tow, mostly sentimental objects, photographs and artwork collected over the years, she purchased a four-story townhome off Key Highway in The Towns at HarborView development.

"At the foot of my [front] steps, I can look down the long pier and see the American flag," she says. "It's the closest thing to marina living without living in the water."

Indeed, at any given time during the summer, the marina is jampacked with boats. Children and couples stroll along the pier, while dog walkers from the nearby high-rise condominium building, as well as the 72-unit townhouse complex, pause for coffee at the outdoor tables of the cafe in front of her home.

Berman paid $550,000 for her 3,000-square-foot home that measures 24 feet wide by 40 feet long. At ground level, a two-car garage and parking pad lessen the chance that that friends and family will have to search for a spot when visiting. A flight of maintenance-free, resin stairs leads to her front door, which faces east toward the water.

As construction on the home began, Berman hired interior decorator Suzanne Levin Lapides to create a functional environment in which she could easily incorporate her artwork. The two women teamed during the entire building phase.

"[Lapides] worked with me from the minute we got the contract," notes Berman. "We added extra closets in the garage, pocket doors, and an extra bedroom closet."

Those adjustments, together with new furniture and window treatments, cost an additional $75,000.

The living area on the second floor is open and bright, enhanced with well-chosen, scaled pieces of furniture and Berman's collection of paintings, prints and objets d'art. Her passion for elephants is evident throughout the house, represented in everything from framed photographs she took in Africa to her jewelry. A 6-foot, tuxedo-clad elephant mannequin in roller skates stands at attention at the entrance of the living room off the foyer. The stately pachyderm presents a gleaming tray of foil-wrapped chocolates to guests.

Parchment beige walls provide a cool backdrop for natural pine flooring and neutral-colored Roman shades on the windows and sliders. Berman carefully chose the woven window treatments to make the artwork the focal point of each room. Even the varying blue shades of a Chinese wool carpet loomed in the 1920s and the beige waffle-weave sectional sofa enable the bright colors of blown-glass vases and a pink neon elephant in the front window to stand out.

In the kitchen, appliances, cabinets and counters hug a corner in semicircular fashion. Below the white laminate cabinets, a mirrored backsplash covers the wall's arc, reflecting the space and number of people.

Neighbors have told Berman that the view through her back windows gives the frequent impression that she is throwing a party.

In fact, Berman loves to entertain. Her dining room is a study in understated elegance. A lacquered mahogany table is supported by a pyramid-like pedestal base. Six mahogany armchairs boast wide oval back rests and are upholstered in a deep blue fabric.

Built-in units on the south wall showcase colorful glassware that includes hand-blown pieces by artist Bill Akers of Seattle. A framed print by German artist Raul Linderman hangs in a center nook of the unit. Done in bold, primary colors, the print depicts an ocean liner looming ominously over a couple in the foreground, absurdly dressed in cabaret garb. Berman calls it The Love Boat.

Across the back end of the house, a deck looks out on a common green area, complete with pond and fountain.

On the third level, her den occupies the front of the home, while a large bedroom and master bath are in the rear. Her light birch bedroom suite is complemented by the soft aqua of the room's walls. A birch library table serves as a display shelf for some favorite pieces of her photography - of elephants, butterflies, exotic birds and giraffes - taken in Africa and Costa Rica.

On the fourth level, a room 7 1/2 feet deep opens to a rooftop deck. The space includes a wet bar and refrigerator. Furniture here is kept at a minimum but features a whimsical wrought-iron, glass-topped table and chairs, the backs of which are cut-outs of smiling faces. The deck offers views of the cityscape and harbor.

"It's a great community here," says Berman, looking beyond her deck to the busy harbor. "There are all ages and backgrounds, and it's so peaceful."

Berman also notes that she mostly keeps her car in the garage and walks everywhere. With no plans for another move and a permanent home for her treasures, she happily concludes, "This is it."

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